Ky. native, winner of HBO Max climbing show pushes for inclusivity in the sport

Ky. native, winner of HBO Max climbing show pushes for inclusivity in the sport
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 10:44 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Cat Runner won the first season of the new HBO Max show, ‘The Climb,’ and now he’s coming back to the gym where he trained in hopes of inspiring a new generation of climbers.

“We want to invite people in from the community, so they know it’s a safer space, they know they belong here,” said Briana Mazzolini, one of the Board of Directors of the Red River Gorge Climbing Coalition. “And we’re creating future rock climbers in the process.”

Mazzolini-Blanchard says there has always been this financial barrier in rock climbing. So they are working to eliminate it by opening LEF Climbing for free Friday night, prioritizing new climbers and those who have been historically marginalized in the sport.

“That’s the whole point of what we’re doing. We’re showing up as Black and Brown and Indigenous and Queer climbers. To show other people they belong,” said Mazzolini-Blanchard. “You can’t be what you can’t see. And that’s why we’re here doing what we’re doing.”

And that’s exactly what one of their newest board members, Cat Runner, was doing there.

“So that more youth can try it. More adults can try it,” Runner said. “It’s a space that is prioritizing diversity within it and removing that barrier a lot of minorities may experience.”

The 24-year-old Louisville native spent time training in the Red River Gorge and at LEF.

Runner came out as a transgender man as a teenager. And now he’s inspiring new generations of climbers.

“That’s why representation is so important. It means something to see someone who looks like you doing something cool. It gives you proof that you can do it, too,” Runner said.

LEF will be hosting more free climbing nights for new climbers every month.